On this week’s episode of the Performance Delivered Podcast, our guest is Kevin O’Connor. Kevin is the Marketing Director at Scripted, an online marketplace that connects businesses with freelance writers who write content from blogs to white papers. 

Kevin will lead us through the aspects of working with freelance writers to develop a solid content marketing plan. Tune in now to find out…

  • Which type of writer you need for your project 
  • The key points to include in your content brief
  • How to measure the success of your content marketing plan
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is content marketing. Here to speak with me is Kevin O’Connor, who is the marketing director at Scripted, a freelance writer marketplace that connects businesses with experts, writers in their industry. Kevin is a 12 year marketing veteran. He has headed up marketing for multiple digital marketing agencies. And for the last four years has been the marketing director for Scripted. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin O’Connor: Thanks for having me, Steffen. I really appreciate you having me on.

Steffen: Now. I mean, you know, it’s like having an expert to talk about content marketing, I’m sure there are a lot of stories and a lot of information you can share with our audience about the main topic today. But before we before we talk about content marketing, let’s let’s talk a little bit about yourself. Tell our listeners how you get started in your career and how you ended up in marketing.

Kevin: Sure, I actually started out as a journalist, out of college. I moved to Las Vegas from the east coast and started as like a pop culture magazine journalist. But surely into that career, I kind of realized there’s not a lot of money in it. So I made the move to marketing, which I you know, I had a dual major in college. So it was something that, you know, I had interest in, but you know, not until I made the move, did I really find out what it was about. 

So I started off as a content writer, and SEO for, like small digital agencies out in Las Vegas. And I kind of just moved my way up from agency to agency. I, I worked in private sector as well for a large pharmaceutical company as as a marketer. So I got to see a lot of different companies and their marketing strategies over the years. And then eventually, I became a marketing director of my own in my own agency out in Las Vegas for several years. And then that’s before I found Scripted about four years ago.

Steffen: Perfect, perfect. Now, you know, you talked about that you you work for agencies to work in house, you know, depending on the size of an organization, quite often is challenging, or might be challenging to build out a content team in house. Now, Kevin, what are benefits of hiring freelance writers to create content for their business?

Kevin: Well, I think there are many, but the most important benefit in my eyes is the agility it brings. Being able to choose from a large pool of experienced writers really allows you to create content quickly, on a wide variety of topics and subject matter. So if a new topic emerges in your industry, you can create content around that, and around the relevant terms, because you’re able to find and hire a writer quickly with experiences on those topics. And then I think secondly, scalability. You know, if you’re a fast growing company, and you move into different sectors or developing new services, you will need content to support those changes on your website and your blog or social media press releases. 

Hiring freelance team allows you to scale up quickly, and ensure you have all the content you need to grow. Now on the flip side, if you’re scaling back due to something like you know, the COVID pandemic or an economic downturn, you have that ability as well. With a freelance team, rather than having to downsize an in house content team, you’re able to put your marketing on hold or until things start to start up again and turn around, you can build that team back up. So I think those are really the huge benefits of having a freelancer.

Steffen: Yeah. Now, how does someone go about selecting the right people for their content team? You obviously have a marketplace, you’re being Scripted, you have a marketplace. But But in general, how would you recommend a company starting their research for the right people? And what are the things they should look after when they select or when they engage with writers?

Kevin: Oh, man, there’s a lot that goes into selecting a great writer a great fit. I guess, knowing first and foremost what your brand identity is and what your sound is. And you know what you read like? Having that understanding first going in, what you want to portray will help you find the right writer because matching that style is a huge challenge. Once you once you get that writer who can match your style and you’re going to be able to create a long term relationship with them. Yeah, so that in addition to writing samples. Read, read their writing samples. See any kind of customer ratings like on Scripted, we have, you know, reliability rating scores and able to meet deadlines scores and all that kind of stuff is very important. 

I mean, if they are not meeting deadlines if they’re not communicating, so start a conversation, we we really emphasize communication between your freelance writer and a business owner, if you guys aren’t talking, there’s a good chance that there’s going to be a big gap in the final product of what you thought it was and what the writer thought it was. So start asking them questions about who they are. And finally, I think your content brief is, is the biggest factor in success on a content project. If you can have a detailed, well organized, goal oriented content brief, your writer is going to be able to take that and succeed.

Steffen: Well, how important is it to find writers that have deep knowledge of, of your industry of that industry of the company that needs content?

Kevin: Well, it depends. there’s basically two kinds of writers in my mind. There’s generalists, and they’re specialists. Specialists can write about their topic really well, better than most people. So lawyers can write about law, you know, medical professionals can help you get insights there. But generalists are just really good writers, really good researchers, and that they can take many topics and write about them well. You know, a journalist can write about a million different stories, right? If they’re well researched, and they have the skill set behind it. So it depends on I guess your business really. 

Like what is your business? Does it need a specialist? Or can it use a generalist that is just a quality writer who understands SEO, understands content marketing, understand exactly what you’re trying to do, doesn’t necessarily need to be an expert in your industry. But in other things, like more technical, like, especially in the software field, we find technology, you want to have someone with experience in that subject. You want to you want to be able to find writers who you can look at their writing samples and say, okay, they know HTML. They know, web development. It’s difficult for a generalist to write about web development, if they can’t, if they’re not web developers, you know? So it just depends on the topic. 

If you’re a plumber, I can tell you right now, there’s, we have a lot of writers who can write SEO friendly, great quality content on plumbing, they don’t have to be plumbers, you know what I mean? And that’s a slighting plumbing over, you know, web development, it’s just the content marketing side of it, the business side of it, you want it to be friendly to the public, right? You don’t want to have to be have plumbing knowledge to write that content. You want to be an expert, you want to be an authority in it. Sure. But you also want to be able to break that down for the public and that you might need a generalist writer.

Steffen: Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s a, that’s a great point. I think if you if you have specialists, they might write in a in a way that the target audience might not be able to follow, right, as you said, was a plumbing example. I mean, for those types of businesses, it’s probably more about showing the prospect that you know what you’re doing. And that is more on a top level, rather than, oh, you have to take really that screw out. And then you have to do A and then you have to do B and C, etc. That’s probably not what the person that reads the article is looking for.

Kevin: No, no, I in fact, like in that example, and there’s a lot of small business examples like that, where you want to be able to break a process down into like a short listicle, easy to read listicle that your user, the searchers, is actually trying to find the answer to. And then you, as the business owner, are branded with that content. And it’s like, if you need to know more advanced stuff than this, if you do you really want to fix this complicated plumbing problem. We’re are the guys to go to. You know what I mean? But for the simple stuff, you can get a generalist writer who can who can help you communicate that to your audience.

Steffen: Now, in my opinion, a lot stands and falls with a content brief. I mean, if you develop a content brief that is very clear that has all the required information, you know, you you set the writer that you select up for success. If you don’t, you most likely will need a lot of revisions to to get your point where you feel happy with the content. Can you talk a little bit about from your perspective, what are the key points that a content brief should have to make sure that a writer can do their job properly?

Kevin: Absolutely. So first off, who is this piece of content for? You have to give the writer your audience. You have to let them know who who’s the ideal customer, who’s the ideal reader of this piece of content, so they know who they’re talking to. Secondly, target key terms. So from an SEO perspective, well, who do you what do you want to rank for, with this piece of content? If it’s for content marketing, in particular? And then just a general outline or overview of the topic? And finally, what are your goals? What are your goals with that piece? What do you want someone to sign up for your newsletter? After they read it? 

Do you want them to buy a specific product? Do you want, you know, somebody to call you? That changes the piece of content. So whatever the call to action is, make that clear. And finally, structure and, and voice, style. Like, is it in the first person? Second person? Do you want subheadings? You do, probably in a blog post. And then yeah, where is this going to live? It’s going to be a social post. Is this for a forum? Or is it on your blog? Is it one of your main landing pages? Is it a commercial page versus a blog post? Like these things are important for the writer to understand before they start your project?

Steffen: I think he said something interesting a second ago, which I think is very important is think about what what’s the goal of the content piece that you’re creating, because, you know, we still if you want to think simple, in kind of from a sales funnel perspective, right, there’s an awareness part, there’s consideration parts of the center part, and there’s an action part. And depending on the content that you create, where that content sits, you need to write to that part, right? 

If you educate and tap into awareness part where you just want to be helpful, explain things, it is it is less about call to actions in there. But the further you go down in a funnel, the content pieces differ. But then you also need as you said, you need to have a different tone, certain parts of the of the content needs to be geared towards that end goal, which might be, as you said, newsletter signup, or, you know, demo requests, for example.

Kevin: Absolutely. And it’s really important that you have content for every stage in that funnel. And that it’s consistent too. And that’s where it’s a benefit to kind of build a relationship with your freelance writers. Like, once you have someone you like, who understand your business, it’s good thing to keep hiring them and, and use them for your top of funnel and your bottom of funnel content. If they’re, like I said, either a generalist or a specialist.

Steffen: Yeah. Now, how does Scripted help organizations to find the right writers for them?

Kevin: Well, we do have, like a pitching system where the writer, can you create a content brief and put the job out to our marketplace, and then our writers will pitch to you. And you can select from those pitches, and they set their prices, and you can negotiate with them and communicate with them that way. Or we also have a smart match system that we’ve developed. 

So with the smart match system, our writers all have industries that they’re experts in, that we’ve vetted and that they have submitted content for. And we know that they have a really good understanding of that topic. So you can also order content on Scripted based on your industry and use our smart match system for us to auto match you with one of the writers that we know can accomplish your piece for you.

Steffen: Yeah, that sounds like you’re saving a lot of time, because you don’t have to by hand, go through a list of writers, probably invite them yourself or then have to go through a number of proposals. Read through what they write.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s a process. Yeah, content and content, ordering can be a process for sure. Especially when you’re on and I’m sure a lot of your your audience members have tried things like Fiverr, or Upwork. And like these huge, you don’t know what you’re gonna get back, you really don’t know who’s vetted, who isn’t kind of situations. What we do for you is we take that process out. And I love it that I use our smart match system all the time for our content. And it’s just a huge time saver. It really is. 

If you have something like that’s really specific to you, or first off, if you’re if you don’t know, you don’t have any relationship with writers, you don’t trust the platform. You want to sift through, you know, get to know writers sift through their writing samples, sure. But if you have a project that you know, the details the in and outs of it, and you have a team of writers that you actually can trust to accomplish that goal. You don’t want to have to do that process every time. Right? You want to be able to just say get started, or one of these guys will take care of it. I trust them. Let’s go and then that’s what smart match is for for our customers.

Steffen: Perfect. Now we, a second ago, we talked about content as it relates to the different stages of the sales funnel. But content, obviously is not just blog posts, it’s newsletters, you know, social posts, etc. What content types can companies or individuals request on your platform?

Kevin: I mean, it comes in all types. Blog posts, like you said. Newsletters, social media, video scripts, website, copy, ad copy, we just actually launched ebooks, ad copy, q&a is actually an emerging content type. I don’t know if you’ve noticed in search, how the they have the little FAQ section, now. That really takes up a lot of real estate. So your website should probably have that, you know. So your pages should have, like easy schemed FAQs. 

So common questions that your customers are asking that you should have that set up on an easy to find page and your website. And you’re going to be able to get that real estate in search those big q&a blocks. So that’s, that’s a really like an emerging content type recently for our customers, because Google wants it, that means you probably want it. And then, we also have white papers, and some really in depth research papers as well. Pretty much anything if you have a custom project as well. So we offer that ability.

Steffen: So how does the pricing change, depending on the type of content someone requests in your platform?

Kevin: It currently does not. So it’s really by the word count that it’s estimated, we have like an average price for smart match, so I can get started quickly. So that depends on your word count. But if you do the proposal method, that means you’re getting submissions from our writers, and they set their prices. So you put out a project and our writers will come back with their pitch for it and their price.

Steffen: Perfect. Now that we talked about how to find writers and what type of content there is, let’s let’s move over to, you know, building successful content marketing program campaign. Is it only what the quality of the content to have a successful campaign? Or are there other factors that play a significant role?

Kevin: I mean, I wish it was just quality content, you know, you could just publish, and you’re number one on Google. But that’s really not it. There’s so much more that goes into a successful content marketing campaign. And it starts really, with setting your goals, just like with your content orders, and making sure that they’re in line with your business goals. So whatever you want to accomplish with your content, it should be related to what you want to accomplish with your business. So we never recommend creating contents that say just get traffic or more traffic, right, there’s a million ways to get more traffic to your website. 

But if those visitors aren’t targeted, if they don’t convert, they don’t help you reach your business goals. And what’s the point, they’re just empty shoes, walking around your building. So it all starts with, yeah, your business goals, you know. Higher website conversions, sales, getting a new service, or product off the ground, whatever it may be. And once you know your goals, you need to build customer personas, know who your who your audiences, you know, hopefully you have an idea who that is, who you’re who you want to market to, you have like an idea that you’re starting off with. 

But you also want to back that up with solid data, you know, so having customer data, who’s your best, like, sale? You know, you start from an idea, but it’s better to have data behind it. And to gather that data, if you don’t already have it, you know, start a Facebook campaign, or an AdWords campaign and test out some custom audiences or keywords and see if the demand is there. And then, you know, you always want to start with what you think about them, and then get the data, like I said, and turn those ideas into concrete facts. 

So say you think your customer is a 35 year old housewife, with a college degree who spends time on the social network and enjoys XYZ, you want to have the data to back that theory up before you really build out a content strategy around it. And once you once you get that once you have like a really solid idea of who you’re marketing to, that’s when you can really start doing some keyword research around, what are they searching for, you know, what are their their key terms that are going to get them to your website, and that you can realistically, whether, you know, you’re an existing established website or a brand new one, rank for using, you know, quality content and outreach, you know.

Steffen: Now, to add to this probably, you know, chances are if you’re a new company, there are already other companies like yours out there, and they might have gone through this already. So my advice always is or when we engage with clients, like, let’s look who your competitors are and what they do. Right? Yeah, look at what they’ve write about. And when you analyze that you get a feeling for and you get an idea for who they are targeting. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re doing it right. You still will have to, you know, sense check that, but it’s also a good point to find topics, and and kind of narrow things down a little bit.

Kevin: Yeah, and it’s a great point, you should definitely be looking at what your competitors are writing. And then, and what’s in the top of the search results for the terms that you know, you want to rank for, if you’re selling red shoes, you want to rank for red shoes. So what’s the content that’s coming up? And then, while you’re reading, it always be thinking, what’s missing? 

What aren’t they talking about that, that I know is important that I know, I’m an authority in? That I know I can I can help my customers with this topic better? And how can you add to what’s out there, because that’s how you’re gonna end up having the best content. And that’s where you want to start, you want to start by having the best content, and seeing what is missing is a really great way to start.

Steffen: Yeah, I totally agree. Now, now that someone creates content writer, they have created a couple of pieces. But it obviously takes a while, you know, when you when you put it out on your website till Google picks it up until the content makes its way through the search engine ranks and and hopefully appears on the first page at some point. But up to that point, I mean, no one sees this. From your perspective, what can companies do to get eyes on to the content to engage with their audience? Or have the audience engage with the content they created?

Kevin: Well, yeah, so if you’re brand new, I mean, it can be tough, you know, how do you get like one person to listen to you when you have zero. But we’ve seen a lot of customers build their websites from scratch with from no authority with no history, and use content to grow consistent, targeted traffic. We’ve seen a lot of people failed and do this, too. It’s not easy, you know, I don’t want anyone to get the impression that you can just, as they say, in our business, publish and pray, you know, that you can just put it out there and hope for the best. Way more people fail at content marketing than succeed. 

That’s a fact. I think the difference that I’ve seen in my career over the years of who succeeds and who fails is, is almost always having a consistent publishing cadence being patient, for sure, like you said, it can be six months to a year before you see a needle move, from Google’s perspective, from any kind of organic traffic. And then, you know, doing the post publishing work, as well, these things are very important. So there’s much more to it than just publishing, right? You got to promote, promote, promote. 

Newsletters, press releases, your social media, joining and engaging in like existing online communities, in your industry, these things are very important. And integral to getting your content out there. Like you have to, you have to be in the community that you want to reach that being consistent, keep publishing, keep exploring new topics that you know, your audience is interested in, making sure that you’re at the top of your industry, as far as knowledge, right? Becoming, that’s how you’re gonna become an authority on topics. And it’s not gonna happen overnight.

Steffen: And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to put money against it, right? You don’t have to buy search ads to drive traffic to your content or Facebook ads or, you know, to to get eyeballs onto that content. You know, if you don’t have that much money, it’s blood, sweat and tears. Right? Yeah, it’s about going into communities, as you said, answering questions that people have, sharing your content there. 

I mean, on LinkedIn, if you go there, there are specific groups where people share their content, right. And all of a sudden, you have exposure to hundreds, thousands of people that potentially look at your content, because the topic is interesting. So there are things that you can do that doesn’t require money to promote your content, you just, you know, you just have to put the time in.

Kevin: Absolutely. And I think I think LinkedIn is a great place for especially small businesses to start and find communities that they can promote their content in. And I think Facebook’s made it so that over the years, their algorithm changes have made it very difficult to grow an organic following on Facebook, but LinkedIn is a little different. People are there for that purpose. To learn more about a specific industry or to be involved in the business side of things. So yeah, I highly recommend using using LinkedIn to get out your business related content, for sure. And then and yeah, join those communities and interact,

Steffen: Are they’re, Kevin are there specific tools, blogs or services that you would recommend to businesses that potentially just start out or that want to take the next step of the content marketing to be successful?

Kevin: Yeah, well, first and foremost, sign up for Scripted.com. I’m pretty familiar with it. I think it’s a great tool to find good freelance quality writing and content for your business. But uh, yeah, I love a lot of different tools. I love hrefs, I think they have probably the most comprehensive, like keyword research and data tool for content marketers and their blog is fantastic. So definitely go read the Hrefs blog. A lot of case studies, everything’s really laid out simple and backed by data. A lot of people in our business use semrush as well. 

Another quality tool to really just find the terms that you want to target. To find search volume to have an understanding of what people are looking for in your industry for your business, what you’re offering and who your competitors are, you might not know that. And to find out who’s ranking and who you’re competing against in organic search. Those tools at semrush and Hrefs are great, and then also Grammarly. Get Grammarly. Make sure they like what you’re putting out there is grammatically correct. And it’s really easy tool to use. And I think it’s still free.

Steffen: There’s a free version. Yeah, I think so.

Kevin: Yeah. I know all our writers use it. Before it goes to our editors, it hits grammarly every time. And then yeah, get yourself a solid CMS like HubSpot or WordPress or a content calendar is absolutely key. You have a content calendar, you can plan out your content, making sure that you’re like I said, consistency. Over time in publishing, you might be publishing for a year and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but you’re building history for your website. And that history is going to give you a better chance of ranking.

Steffen: And promoted across your social platforms. 

Kevin: 100%. 

Steffen: So you’re when you put it out on your website, posted on your Facebook, on your on your Twitter or on your on your LinkedIn, if Pinterest, or Instagram is important to your business, put it out there. Kevin, last question, as we’re coming towards the end of our podcast episode today. How do you recommend to measure success? You know, a few minutes ago, you said, look, it might sometimes take six months to a year till you see the needle moving. What are the success metrics that you would recommend organizations look at to determine whether a piece of content is doing right. 

And there are two ways there, right. A piece of content could do great and you could look at what else can we write around that topic to even generate more engagement traffic. But it could also be you created a piece of content and it hasn’t really picked up, you know, it hasn’t picked up. It hasn’t created what you had hoped it would do. And you might want to look at it again, and then kind of optimize it and improve it. So what are the KPIs the key performance indicators that you recommend looking at to make the determination or to determine whether or what to do basically?

Kevin: Well, yeah, that absolutely depends on your business and what you’re trying to accomplish. Like I said, your your content goals should mirror your business goals. So your KPIs are going to be around that if you’re an e commerce site, is this piece of content driving conversions? Is it helping drive conversions? Is it keeping people on the site? So I don’t want to say like bounce rate, I think that’s kind of a vanity term, but a piece of content that will keep people on for a certain amount of time. So like, if you have you need some kind of analytics. So what most likely Google Analytics, or some other version of that, but you can see the pieces of content that are actually bringing in users, social shares are important, but they’re not going to directly impact your search your search rankings. 

But like I said, using a tool like href, or sem rush and seeing really quickly what key terms you’re ranking for, you can also see that in Google Analytics, but once you start to see those, those key terms pop up, and it might be while start to monitor that, you know, where are you on the fifth page? You’re, you’re on the fifth page for your key term. Alright, a month from now, maybe you’re on page four, maybe you’re on page three, and you keep building you know, those are those are important things to watch, for sure.

Steffen: Okay. Well, Kevin, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on content marketing. If people want to find out more about you or want to try scripted.com, how can they get in touch? How can they find Scripted?

Kevin: Oh, man, just go right to the website, scripted.com and you can sign up. Whether you’re interested in being a writer or you are very much need of quality writers. You can go to scripted.com right now and sign up for a 30 day free trial.

Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at SymphonicHQ. Thanks again. See you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com